A German newspaper in the northern port city of Hamburg that reprinted Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) cartoons from the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo was the target of an arson attack early Sunday, police said. Thankfully no one was hurt. Real change is due, as the world is pitted within these ideological divides. The Muslim ummah must change. Words come cheap, and the images of Charlie Hebdo were cheap, but we have to believe and show the world that lives are not.
The western world also needs to change. The Middle East is on fire, ISIS is ready drink blood, the Taliban are killing school going children and Boko Haram is razing villages. What is Charlie Hebdo and its purpose? Attacks are happening unprovoked, and in the case of the Hamburg paper and Charlie Hebdo, provocation has backfired. Conservative extremists do not care for our freedom of speech, or about a cartoon. Hate transcends the image. This is about pitting the west against Islam, and it has been a successful strategy on the part of fanatics and those reprinting the cartoons are playing right into their hands. It goes without saying that we must condemn the arson attack, and the right to free speech even as this incident has opened up an interesting debate about where free speech ends and hate speech begins.
It is not about the content of the cartoon. Not really. Charlie Hebdo has a small circulation. Its style of satire is very French, and it is very niche. It has always been provocative, regardless of the religion or politics it is insulting but it has now become world famous. These fringes of society exist everywhere, like neo-Nazism and the Klu Klux Clan still alive in the US. However, society has evolved to find ways to deal with offensive organisations. Anti-Semitic cartoons today do not exist though only a few decades ago, Jewish people were the most brutalised community stripped of their dignities. Is this because the Jewish community has been blowing up news offices? No. It’s because of political lobbying, over a long period of time, since the 1930’s that has changed the way the world views the Jews. It’s because of a strategy of integration and constant dialogue with other communities. It’s because they have been smart, while extremism has caused Muslims to become isolated wherever they live. And it will continue to do so until we don’t start playing and acting smart.